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For Jim Baker To Succeed: Rebuild Military, Initiate Major Middle East Peace Push, Do NOT Increase Troops in Iraq

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It would do absolutely no good and great harm
to increase American troop strength in Iraq.

In order to make a material difference on the
ground, there would have to be 50,000 to 100,000 more American boots on
the ground.

We do not have the troops, without creating
extreme punishment on our force structures
today and doing extreme damage to declining
deterrent capability in every other part of the
world. We cannot continue to misuse and
abuse our Guard and Reserve forces, and
deploy them as though they are nothing but
an adjunct to the Army and Marine Corps,
which is not their designated role.

And: a substantial increase in troop strength
would probably create more instability and
make the problem worse, and would definitely
send exactly the most disastrous signal to
Prime Minister Maliki and an Iraqi government
that is far too often loyal to murderous militia,
and pro-Iranian factions with guns.

If John McCain wants to campaign for the
right wing base of the Republican Party in
the 2008 primaries, that is his problem, but
should not become America's policy and
America's problem.

To send in a nominal amount of increased
troops, in the 10,000 to 20,000 range, would
have virtually zero impact on the ground in
military terms, would send the same disastrous
signal to the Iraqi government, would be simply
a doomed political compromise with American
conservative and neoconservative factions who have already done enough
harm for a lifetime.

We should not compromise with them, we
should end their policy.

What needs to be done, in military terms, is
a major rebuild of depleted force structures,
a major recruitment and moderate expansion
of the current Army and Marine Corps forces,
a major replacement of outdated and worn
down equipment, and no additional military
commitements without compelling cause.

General Barry McCaffrey and others have
placed the cost of what must be done, for this
rebuild, above $50 billion and to maintain
our force structure, capacity to respond and
credible deterrence it must be done.

Within Iraq and throughout the Middle East
the United States must regain the political
and moral authority of every American leader
since 1948, and initiate comprehensive plans
and proposals for Middle East peace. It is
unconscionable, inexusable and doomed to
failure that President Bush abandoned this
fifty year strategy.

There should be a major push for a 60 day
cease fire in Iraq, a serious 60 day national
reconciliation conference in Iraq, and a serious
commitment for a substantial economic revival
package with multilateral financing. We should
appeal directly to the Iraqi people by working
for an end to the carnage and the beginning of a new quest for
opportunity and hope.

The hard truth is, there is a real question whether Prime Minister
Maliki's loyalties
and limits are so severely wrong that he
is incapable of doing the right thing. He
may be so powerfully in the grip of Shi'ite
and pro-Iranian factions and militia that
he himself is indistinguishable from our
enemies. Let us hope this is wrong, but
it could be right.

Maliki and his supporters must be challenged
and pushed with serious pressure and serious
time limits, and a serious policy with a true
prospect for peace. We should find out within
weeks to months, with hard and aggressive
time frames that are at a minimum, implicit,
but in any event, are clearly understood.

Otherwise we are simply providing additional
heroin to the junkie, in the form of American
troops and American money, sinking further
into the quagmire. What America needs, what
Iraq needs, what the Middle East needs is for the U.S. to simply cut
off the failed policy, and begin a new policy.

To turn a battleship around is hard. It takes
time, effort and commitment. The prospect
of success is challenging but far, far better
than the doomed policies and the inevitable disaster of continuing the
status quo.

We need a serious commitment to regionwide
negotiations. We need a credible program to
seek a broader Middle East peace. We need
political, military and diplomatic moves to
support the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon
which should be a major priority. We need
to begin again, real efforts to solve the long
standing issues between the Israelis and the
Palestinians, and regain the American role of
leadership that has been missing for the full
six years of the Bush Presidency.

This will not be easy, it will be hard. Given the
disastrous mistakes over the past six years, we
now face a choice between the worthy but hard,
versus the disastrous and doomed.

There is hope in the Baker initiative, but the
precondition for hope and success will be a
clean break with the failed policy. We must
not increase American troops in Iraq, which
will only prove we have learned nothing from
the mistakes of the past. We should go in
an entirely new direction and build an entirely
better future.